(1890 - 1976)
“There's nothing like boredom to make you write” 

Agatha Mary Clarissa Christie (nee Miller) is undoubtedly one of the most prolific and well known of all detective fiction writers. In a creative outpouring spanning 65 years, her oeuvre includes 78 crime novels, 150 short stories, 6 straight novels, 4 non-fiction books and 19 plays. Christie started writing partly out of boredom and partly as a result of a bet with her sister Madge, who was a fan of detective fiction.  During WWI she worked in a hospital dispensary, and although she frequently found the work very monotonous, it did give her an excellent working knowledge of poisons.  This, combined with Madge’s challenge to write a good murder mystery, led to The Mysterious Affair at Styles and the emergence of one of the genre’s greatest detectives, Hercule Poirot. The Bodley Head published the book in 1920 in the USA [1921 in the UK] and over the following five years they published the first six of her novels.  However Christie earned comparatively little (only £25 for The Mysterious Affair at Styles) with Bodley Head, so in 1926 she found a new publisher who was prepared to offer better terms.  Her first novel with Collins, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, is generally considered to be her first masterpiece, and its unorthodox ending made it a minor cause celebre.  By 1930 she was married to her second husband, Max Mallowan, an archeologist who she accompanied on various digs in the Middle East – an area which appears in a number of her books over the next several years (Murder in Mesopotamia, Death on the Nile, Murder on the Orient Express).  1930 also saw the arrival of an unlikely elderly spinster detective – Miss Marple in Murder at Vicarage, in which she proved that a shrewd and insightful intelligence could be a thoroughly feminine virtue. From her first novel to her last (Postern of Fate, written in 1973: although Curtain and Sleeping Murder were published later, they were written earlier, probably in the 1940s) there was rarely a year which did not see the publication of a new Christie novel. Her services to her craft were acknowledged in 1971 when she was made a Dame of the British Empire. She died at Winterbrook House in Cholsey near Wallingford, and is buried at the nearby church of St Mary’s.

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